Minister of Basic Education Angie Motshekga raised hopes this week that concerned parents will be able to opt out of the new Comprehensive Sexuality Education (CSE) curriculum it plans to implement in public schools next year.
But, “unfortunately”, the minister’s undertaking, in a written reply to questions posed in parliament by DA MP Nomsa Marchesi, “raises as many questions as it answers”, says Freedom of Religion South Africa (FOR SA).
In her written response Motshekga says parents may opt out of the curriculum, “provided that they can produce an alternative curriculum that meets the required CAPS criteria for competence.”
FOR SA, one of a growing number of parties that have been objecting to the DBE’s lack of consultation on implementing CSE, today published an open letter from its executive director Michael Swain to Motshekga, seeking clarification on her parliamentary reply.
While the news that parents may conditionally opt-out of the curriclum, “is a welcome acknowledgement of the legitimate concerns and rights of parents to ensure that their children are raised in accordance with their own convictions, values and beliefs, [it] unfortunately raises as many questions as it provides answers,” says FOR SA in its open letter.
It says that without a more inclusive process and detailed response from the DBE, confusion around the matter could continue or even worsen — especially as the department’s communications head Elijah Mhlanga ruled out “opting out” in a subsequent statement in which he said objecting parents could take their children to a private school or home school.
In view of the confusion, FOR SA asks Motshekga to take steps to ensure her response becomes official DBE policy.
The open letter (which can be downloaded here) also tables a number of practical questions regarding the implementation of a policy based on the minister’s response.
Here is an edited list of some of these questions:
- Since CSE is part of Life Skills and Life Orientation, could parents just teach alternative sexuality content or all other aspects of LS and LO to comply with CAPS criteria?
- What exactly are “the required CAPS criteria for competence”?
- Given the large number of parents likely to want to opt-out, what process is the department putting in place to evaluate and approve alternate curricula?
- What are all the practical steps that must be taken by a parent who wishes to opt-out their child/ren?
- What will opt-out children do during CSE class-time?
- What will be done to ensure these children are not discriminated against?
- What about individual public schools which would prefer to teach alternative curriculums?
- Will individual provinces who believe it in the best interest of their learners be able to teach an alternative curriculum?
- Will the conscientious objections of individual teachers be accommodated?